Victoria’s police union says Neo-Nazi protests should be banned in the state after a small group of people in black clothes and balaclavas marched through Ballarat chanting “Australia is for the white man” over the weekend.
The group was filmed carrying a nationalist socialist network banner, the same neo-Nazi group that protested against trans rights on the steps of Victorian parliament in May this year. In the aftermath of that event the Victorian government outlawed the public display of the Nazi salute as a hate symbol.
But in Ballarat, the group didn’t salute, nor did they display the Nazi swastika – also banned in Victoria – the consequence of which would be fines of more than $23,000 or up to a year in prison.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt, who called the protestors “deadset crazy”, said on Tuesday this meant police had no power to stop the protest because no laws had been broken.
“Only crooks wear balaclavas down the streets of major cities,” Gatt told Nine News.
“[But] police are limited in what they can do here. At the end of the day, if it were up to us, it would be illegal, you wouldn’t be able to do it. But it’s not; it’s up to governments to determine if they want this happening.”
Victoria Police said the events in Ballarat were under investigation.
“Our top priority was keeping the peace to ensure the event did not impact the safety of the broader community,” a spokesperson said.
“Everyone has the right to feel safe in our community regardless of who they are. We understand incidents of antisemitism can leave communities feeling targeted, threatened and vulnerable. Hate and prejudice has no place in our society.”
Opposition Leader John Pesutto said police ought to have more powers at protests.
“There is a right to free speech and a right to protest peacefully,” he said.
“But when you see repeated protests, from perhaps different groups, where what they’re really talking about is hate, prejudice, division… then we can’t sit quietly by and say that’s OK.
“Our move-on laws are a sensible way through that. They give Victoria Police an intermediate option to defuse situations so they don’t necessarily have to arrest people or do nothing.”
There have been a lot of protests around the country in recent weeks and police presence has been increasing.
This push for expanded police powers comes after Victoria Police pepper-sprayed pro-Palestine protestors who blocked a road in Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day last month, and a week later, announced it would bolster its presence at pro-Palestine and pro-Israel demonstrations amid the genocide in Gaza.
Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.
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